Sleep and mental health: the moderating role of perceived adolescent-parent attachment

Kelly M. Tu, Brian T. Marks, Mona El-Sheikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective The present study investigated whether the effects of sleep duration and quality on adolescent adjustment were moderated by perceived attachment to mothers and fathers. Design The study used a cross-sectional design. Setting Participants were recruited from small town and semirural communities in Alabama. Participants Participants were 106 adolescents (mean age = 13.61 years, SD = .73; 55% girls; 28% African American, 72% European American) and their parents. Measurements Sleep duration (minutes) and sleep quality (efficiency, number of long wake episodes) were derived using actigraphy, and subjective sleep/wake problems were derived with adolescent reports. Adolescents also reported on perceived attachment to mothers and fathers, internalizing symptoms, and self-esteem. Mothers and fathers reported on externalizing behaviors. Results Path model analyses indicated that perceived attachment to parents moderated relations between adolescents' sleep quality and their adjustment. For externalizing symptoms and self-esteem, adolescents at greatest risk for maladjustment were those who reported poor quality sleep (ie, more sleep/wake problems, lower sleep efficiency) coupled with less secure attachment to parents. Conversely, adolescents who experienced better actigraphy-based sleep quality (ie, higher sleep efficiency, fewer long wake episodes) in conjunction with more secure attachment to parents experienced the lowest levels of anxiety symptoms. Less secure attachment was associated with high levels of anxiety symptoms independent of sleep quality. Similar patterns of associations emerged for attachment to mothers and fathers. Conclusions Findings highlight the importance of examining the conjoint influence of sleep and adolescent-parent relationships toward explication of adolescent's mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)90-97
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Actigraphy
  • Adjustment
  • Adolescence
  • Attachment
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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